As you know I recently went out to Macau having being invited to ride out there by the Macau Jockey Club, it was a fantastic trip which I thoroughly enjoyed. I enjoy travelling at the best of times but as a jockey it is great to experience the racing abroad whilst visiting foreign lands!
The flight took around 12 hours and in Hong Kong they are 8 hours ahead of us so, having taken off from Heathrow just after 6.30pm in the evening, I landed in Hong Kong around 2-30pm in the afternoon.
With it being a night flight from Heathrow I managed to get my head down for a few hours sleep so that wasn’t too bad…anyone that knows me will tell you that I like my kip!
On arrival in Hong Kong, (once I got through customs and all that carry on), it was a case of heading to the ferry for Macau. When I reached Macau I was met by Marie May Low Hang. Marie is the manager for Racing Admin and International Affairs and I have to say that she was great. A really nice lady who looked after me very well. Over the duration of the visit I have to say that I never wanted for anything and it was really well organised.
Marie went through the itinerary for the trip which started with track work at 5-45am on the first morning there so, after getting sorted with Marie it was a case of getting some dinner and having an early night.
It was an early start on the racetrack, having arrived at 5-00am to meet the trainers before starting the gallops. I rode eight lots which was good, as it gave me a great chance of getting a feel to how the track rode. I was racing on the Friday, on the sand track and on the turf on Saturday. Also something that was good regards the track work was the fact that the horses are warmed up and ridden around, prior to the gallops, by the stable riders. It saves time for us jockeys as the horses are ready and tacked up just to jump straight up on and ride. They do this in America where I’ve ridden and it does speed things up for us jockeys!
After riding work and meeting the trainers, I went back to my hotel for some breakfast. Well, with all the scandal here in the UK regards the horse meat found in some meat products….that has nothing on the hotel breakfast! Cat and dog sausages….yak!!! I stuck to some fruit and porridge! No wonder my weights okay eh?!
After my porridge and fruit I went and got freshened up before going sight seeing around Macau. Due to the stress caused by the thought of eating some of our furry friends in my sausage butty, I had to go for some therapy! Therapy of the retail kind though, so don’t panic! I had a walk around some of the markets and the shops. The markets are unreal….they have some weird and wonderful looking food on sale and display!
Over the course of the evening I had a nice mooch around, had some chinese for dinner and it was nice. I’m still not sure exactly what it was but, it was nice!
Macau is a City that doesn’t sleep…it is open 24/7 with bars, cafes, restaurants and casinos open all day and night. I returned to the hotel and was tucked up in bed for 11-00pm as a case of getting up early to ride work on the turf track in the morning.
I rode another eight pieces of work, this time on the turf track. I met some other trainers and owners and by the time I had finished the morning on the track I had got another two rides on the Saturday, which took my tally to eight rides over the two days so I was well pleased with that.
After I finished I went for my porridge and fruit (no, I still wasn’t going to try the sausage’s!), and then I paid a visit to the gym. With the flight out to Hong Kong being quite a long one it can cause weight issues, as you can suffer from water retention so I thought it best to have a work out!
The next day was the day of the races so there was no track work taking place. This meant I could have a bit of a lay in! Mark texted me through all the details and form for my rides for the weekend and he identified that the Alan Tam trained Neocortex would be my best chance over the weekend. Mark had gone through the cards and form on the MJC’s website and he was impressed with it. Mark told me that the website highlighted everything about the horses in each race and even had videos of their barrier trials. Neocortex was also highlighted as having had the fastest time over the distance, so this gave us a squeak if he could run to some of his older form.
I had to be at the racecourse at least an hour before the first race and on arrival I had to have my phone switched off. Apart from leaving the weighing room to race ride that was it. Shut off from the outside world! Even here in England, we are able to use our phone in the weighing room, albeit in a designated zone near the clerk of the scales.
Neocortex was up first and he gave me a good ride throughout. Whilst the winner beat us fair and square we ran a great race to finish second at the odds of 99-1! When we rode into the winner’s enclosure we were given a bigger cheer than the winner, which was nice!
From my eight rides over the two days, Neocortex was the nearest I came to a winner. My other rides were in the main young, inexperienced horses and we didn’t get much luck with the draw. Six of my eight rides were drawn out wide, which put paid to their chances. Hellfire, they go quick! I have to say that it was a bit hairy, as they go flat out from the moment the stalls open, to the minute they start pulling up!
On the Saturday evening after racing I was invited out for dinner with some of the owners and trainers I had ridden for which was nice. It was a really pleasant evening. Well, pleasant until I had to order my meal!
I picked the fish I wanted for my dinner from the fish tank which was an experience as I had heard of this. But I didn’t expect the next bit!
The chef brought it to the table, killed it and chopped its head and tail off. Yuck!!
Whilst at dinner, I met a former jockey that you may of heard of…Tony Ives of Teleprompter fame, who he won the Arlington Million on in 1985.
After dinner, we went to a champagne bar for a while before finishing the night at a club. A couple of glasses of champers sorted me out after my dinner table experience thankfully!
Sunday was my final day in Macau before flying home, so we visited China before heading back to Hong Kong. For those of you that don’t know, Macau is an island just off mainland China and Hong Kong. We walked from Macau to China via an underground subway under the sea. It took about 15 minutes but what an experience.
Whilst in China, we did the compulsory sight seeing. Of all the countries I have visited, I have tried to do as much sight seeing as possible, as I like to learn and check out the different cultures. Following our visit to China, it was back to Macau and then to Hong Kong for my flight home!
The trip to Macau was brilliant. It came at what can only be described as rubbish time over here as regards the racing. It was a brilliant experience and I look forward to going back in the future. The only downside was….the jetlag!
A flight home and a flight back to reality, as I was riding at Kempton later that day, so after arriving back at Heathrow, then getting home for 8-00am, I went to bed for a few hours before heading to the races.
Custom House ran well. We finished third and he was having his first run for nearly three months so connections were happy with him.
Since arriving back, rides have been few and far between, as it has been for a lot of jockeys. Today has been my busiest day for a while as I ended up with three rides in the end.
I started the day riding out at Lawney Hill’s. Gina Andrews, Amy Scott, Katie Margarson and myself joined Sky Sports Alex Hammond, in a Sky Sports piece on women in racing, for National Independent Women’s Day on Friday. I sat on Royal Etiquette, who I won on last year and Alex Hammond was asking me for advice, as she is riding in the charity race at Cheltenham on World Hurdle Day. Mark had told me that our very own Rosies Lady is also in the race, so I didn’t tell her too much!!
Talking of Cheltenham, I am looking forward to next week and hopefully I will be going on Champion Hurdle day to cheer on some of my friends from Lambourn. Oh, also on the subject of the festival…an old friend of mine is entered in the Fred Winter. Totalize is a former Bedford House inmate. I used to ride him out at home when Luca trained him and now in the care of Brian Ellison, he looks to have a live chance. It’s always nice to see horses that you’ve been involved with show their true potential, even if it is in the care of someone else.
As mentioned before I went off chatting about next week’s events, I had three rides today. I picked up a spare ride on Olivia’s Llamadas, as Ian Mongan couldn’t ride.
My first ride was on Custom House and he ran a cracking race, staying on and putting a shift in from the widest draw. John Long and the owners were all happy so it was all good. Next up was my spare ride, Llamadas for Olivia. I had ridden the horse in his first two runs from a very long lay-off (he was off the race track for nearly 6 years!) before Ian Mongan rode him and won, so naturally he kept the ride. Since I rode him on his first two comeback races, Ian won two from three on him over two miles and was a close third on the other occasion. Today, we were racing over three furlongs shorter and Hughesy rode a great race on Linkable for Brendan, as he went from the front at a steady pace before quickening from three furlongs out to battle it out with El Libertador and win. My fellow ran a great race to stay on into fourth, narrowly beaten for third so Olivia and the owner were both happy. He’s an 11 year old now and having had such a long absence it’s credit to Olivia to have got him back in such good shape. The owner was happy enough to let me keep the ride on him, so I went back to the weighing room in a good mood as both my mounts had ran well and all concerned were happy.
I grabbed my bag and set off on the hour run to Kempton in good form, that was until I logged in on Facebook to find that someone had taken offence to my ride on the old horse. “I hadn’t tried”, “the horse was well handicapped and should of won”, “with what you’d done before, you should know better!” and, “I am going to report that ride to the BHA!”
I could not believe it, I rode the horse to the letter of my instructions over a trip shorter than he needs, the connections are over the moon and then I get some idiot giving me grief. Now I know that myself and most of my weighing room colleagues will have had this kind of grief before on Twitter, or been pulled to bits on the various forums on the internet but it does sometimes make you think why am I bothering. I enjoy interacting with the public on Twitter and whilst the majority of it is good fun and banter you always get the armchair jockey, or someone who has lost money on your ride that day. But does it give anyone the right to abuse you? No one will ever know what I went through, but I was quite rightly proven innocent and hand on heart I can say that I give 100% every time and ride to my instructions. Anyone that knows the game, knows that it doesn’t always go to plan out there but I’ll always do my best. If I mess up I’m the first to admit it to the horses connections.
Anyway, I’m heading off on my travels again on Thursday, as I’m flying to Helsinki to help promote thoroughbred horseracing there. I am appearing on their main TV channel to help push racing as they are currently building a new racecourse, having only had trotting there so far. It’s another country that I haven’t visited before so, whilst things have been quiet on the track here I have at least been clocking up the air miles!
I’ll let you know how I get on in Finland next week, so take care & enjoy Cheltenham. Good luck to Rosie and James too.
Bye for now.